Graduate student supports peers in planning first statewide virtual programming conference

A portrait of Caroline Murray
Caroline Murray, graduate student, in the Mary Idema Pew Library on the Allendale Campus.
Image credit - Provided by Caroline Murray

When planning Fall 2020 programming, Caroline Murray said she found herself in a sticky situation.

As a graduate student in Grand Valley’s Office of Student Life, part of Murray’s role is advising the Campus Activities Board. Planning virtual activities and events for students to make connections proved to be no easy task. 

“I realized I’m not the only person in this situation,” Murray said. “Starting in August, I met with other grad students to talk about issues we’re having and how we’re addressing them.” 

In reaching out to people, she thought there should be an opportunity for students and professionals to connect. With support from her supervisor and GVSU, Murray planned the first Michigan Campus Activities & Programming Student Leadership Conference, which was held on November 14.

More than 50 students and professionals from colleges and universities across the state logged on for the free virtual conference. Murray said there were about 12 presentations put on by students from GVSU, Wayne State University and Michigan State University. 

Presentation topics included reimagining campus traditions and ableism in programming. One shared by two GVSU students was “Stay at Home(coming),” which shared how Homecoming events evolved in the past year. 

In addition to sharing ideas, challenges and triumphs, Murray said a benefit of holding a virtual conference was the ability to connect with people from other institutions who typically wouldn't be able to attend because of distance or other reasons.

To wrap up the conference, positional roundtables allowed professional staff, graduate students and student leaders in similar roles to have free-flowing conversations regarding their institution’s programming. 

“We acknowledged this is pushing us toward innovation, but it comes with frustrating times,” Murray said. 

With new connections and ideas, Murray said she hopes participants also recognize what they do is important for students. 

“At first, I was intimidated to send emails to random people,” she said. “I learned from this conference that you can make things happen if you try.”

A blue flag graphic that reads: Michigan Campus Activities & Programming Student Leadership Conference
Logo for Michigan Campus Activities & Programming Student Leadership Conference
Image credit - Provided by Caroline Murray


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